Who Needs a Superhero?

Who Needs a Superhero?

We live in a scary world, and hero stories express our longing for safety
and security. While we can sometimes hedge ourselves against disaster, life
is ultimately beyond our control. If only some more-than-human power would
set the world right, we think. If only someone could walk beside us to see
us through the perils of life, someone genuinely good and supremely strong.

So we keep looking for heroes. We idolize our athletes, but they scarcely
make any real difference in the world. We elevate our leaders on lofty
pedestals, but from that vantage their clay feet are all the more obvious.
We expect miracles from doctors, cops, and firefighters, but they all fail
us often enough to remind us that they too are only human, after all.

When real heroes let us down, we turn to the fictional variety. The more
troubling our times, it seems, the grander our heroes. In these days of
terrorism, war, epidemics, ecological disaster, and shaky economics, we need
superheroes, those costumed do-gooders who were born in the frightful
shadows of the Great Depression and World War II. ...

Admittedly, not all superheroes offer sterling role models. Like television, movies and books in general, the comic book field has its share of needless violence, sexual stereotypes, and other offensive material. But if we separate the wheat from the chaff, we'll find comic books offering much heroism, idealism, and sacrificial nobility as any area of the entertainment industry.

In fact, nobody does heroes better than comic books. As far as I can see,
there's just one drawback with these caped adventurers: they aren't real.

That leaves us in a bind. Flesh-and-blood heroes aren't big enough to save
us, and comic book heroes are make-believe. ...

The spiritual hunger for heroes is woven into the fabric of the human
creature. Our Maker built us with a persistent longing for a rescuer who
will save us from injustice and suffering. We dream of a champion who will
lift us and lead us home. In our bleakest moments, we pray for someone to
save us from ourselves.

Religion is the deepest expression of our longing for a savior; but all our
hero stories finally point in the same direction. Every heroic saga,
legend, and myth is ultimately a variation on one universal story: When all
seemed lost, a hero stepped in to rescue us from the evil around and within

As it turns out, this story happens to be true, and the hero is absolutely

H. Michael Brewer
"Who Needs a Superhero?" pages 9-10
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2004

Every Savage Creature Gentle

Every Savage Creature Gentle

Stories concerning Ethiopian's relations with wild animals are legion. ...
In his desert cave Abuna Abd el-Mesih el-Habashi is said to have spoken to
lizards, snakes and scorpions as 'his friends.'

Even a very large and dangerous snake is said to have lived with el-Habashi
(the Ethiopian) for some years, the monstrous snake would come and sit next
to him or even lie down on his lap. Jackals are said to have slept at the
cave entrance. Abuna Abd el-Mesih is reported to have lived with a wolf in
1964; the wolf in the cave used to sit with him and he patted it on the
back, allowing the tawny-grey mammal, which had a formidable reputation for
flesh eating, to leave the cave if visitors came to see the Ethiopian

Once a gigantic snake came to Abuna Abd el-Mesih and blew something into his face, but the desert monk was unafraid. He would even walk out into the
desert carrying a scorpion in his hand. He showed no signs of fear when
handling scorpions, disregarding the lobster-like pincers and jointed tail
that could easily inflict poison upon anyone touching such a dangerous
arachnid. (1 Kings 12:11). Abuna Abd el-Mesih was deeply offended when
visiting monks killed scorpions in his cave. He describes all life forms in
the natural world as his 'family.'

When once challenged to fit a wooden door to the mouth of his cave for
reasons of personal security, Abuna Abd el-Mesih replied, "A jackal does not need a door does he?"

He also liked to quote Job 5:17, "For you will be in league with the stones
of the field; and the beasts of the field will be at peace with you."

Perhaps all the stories of love between humans and beasts in any century,
from the fourth century and even to our own, are parables of mutual love:

"With Christ every brute beast is wise and every savage creature gentle."

From the Testimony of Dr John Watson in the book
"The Ethiopian Servant Of Christ: The Life of Father Abd el-Mesih
By His Grace Bishop Macarius, pages 124-5
St Shenouda's Monastery Press, Sydney, Australia 2009

Candles Lit

The candles burning on the altar represent the non-created Light of the Trinity, for the Lord dwells in an unapproachable light.

They also represent the fire of Divinity which destroys our ungodliness and sins.

The candles lit before the icons of the Savior signify that He is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9); at the same time, He is a Fire which engulfs and revives our souls and bodies.

The candles lit before the icons of the Theotokos are a symbol of the fact that She is the Mother of the Unapproachable Light, and also of Her most pure and burning love for God and Her love for mankind.

The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others.

These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night.

The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.

St. John of Kronstadt [from My Life in Christ]

Vigil lights are lit for many reasons:

Vigil lights are lit for many reasons:

First - because our faith is light. Christ said: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). The light of the lampada reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.

Second - in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the lampada, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).

Third - in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Savior: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16).

Fourth - so that the lampada would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.

Fifth - so that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assault us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.

Sixth - so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the lampada, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God's will.

Seventh - in order to teach us that just as the lampada cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward lampada, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God's grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours are, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.

Eighth - in order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ's truth would shine within us. From this light of Christ's truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us.

St. Nikolai of Ochrid [from an email]

[In the first week of February is the festal day of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, candles are blessed in the Syrian Orthodox tradition]

Power of a Good Word

Power of a Good Word

They say the Abba Macarius the Egyptian once went up from Scete to the Nitrian mountain. As he drew near to a certain place, he said to his disciple, "Pass on a little in front of me."

When he had done so there met him a certain heathen priest, who was running along and carrying some wood about the noon. That brother cried out to him, saying "O minister to devils, why are you running?"

The priest turned round and hit him with many severe blows, and left him with but very little breath remaining in him. He took up his wood and went on his way.

When he had gone a little further, the blessed Macarius met him on his journey, and said to him, "May you be helped, O man of labors?"

The priest was astonished, came to him and said, "What fair thing have you seen in me that you should salute me in this gracious fashion?"

The old man replied, "I see that you toil, and that you do not know that you are toiling for naught."

The he said to the old man, "At your salutation I also was very sorry, and I learned that you did belong to the Great God. But a wicked monk met me just before you did, he cursed me, and I hit him even unto death."

The Old man knew that it was his disciple of whom he spoke. The priest laid hold of the feet of Macarius, saying, "I will not let you go until you make me a monk."

They came to a place where the brother was ling, carried him and brought him to the church of the mountain. When the fathers saw the heathen priest with him, they marveled that he had been converted from the error, which he held. Abba Macarius took him and made him a monk, and through him many heathen became Christians.

Abba Macarius said, "An evil word makes wicked even those who are good, and a good word makes good even those who are wicked, as it is written."

Paradise of the Holy Fathers - Volume II:
Containing the counsels of the holy men and the questions and answers of the ascetic brethren generally know as "the sayings of the Fathers of Egypt"
Pages 54-55, St. Shenouda Coptic Monastery, Putty, NSW, Australia 2008

The Visible and Invisible Church

The Visible and Invisible Church

THE CHURCH VISIBLE, or upon earth, lives in complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church, of which Christ is the Head. She has abiding within her Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit in all their
living fullness, but not in the fullness of their manifestation, for she
acts and knows not fully, but only so far as it pleases God.

Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and (according to the words of Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. 12) does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves.

The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day. The Church on earth judges for herself only, according to the grace of the Spirit, and the freedom granted her through Christ, inviting also the rest of mankind to the unity and adoption of God in Christ; but upon those who do not hear her appeal she pronounces no sentence, knowing the command of her Saviour and Head, "not to judge another man's servant" (Rom. 14. 4).

Alexei Khomiakov (1804-1860)
In his best known "The Church is One"
(It seems the entire writing by Khomiakov is online here, but I can't find
my "hard" copy to compare)

Mission and Theosis

Mission and Theosis

Salvation is more than liberation of humanity or humanization, but divinization of the humanity and the cosmos. Finite salvation of the created is not infinite liberation, that is the infinite divinization as humanity is not created for one another alone, but for the Creator as well.

The aim of salvation is not restitution of the unfallen state and Adam and Eve, but elevation to the status and fulness of the Second Adam, which is called Christification or Trinitification.

The first Adam fell when tempted, but the Second Adam did not fall. Therefore our aim is not just humanization, but theosis. It is for this theosis that the Incarnation took place as "good news of a great joy which will come to all the people" (Lk 2:10)...

Ulltimately all the differences and separations between human beings will be dissolved in a mutual sharing of beingness (perichoresis) where 'thine and 'mine' are ot different in the case of property, purpose or will, but different only in different personal and group identities with full openness to penetrate each other...

The aim of mission can't be anything less than the deification, unification and reconciliation of all churches and the whole world into the unity of the measure and the stature of the fullness of Christ. It is not humanization or socialization but divinization, which is social transformation in the model of Holy Trinity, which may be called Trinification. The aim of mission is not only Theosis but along with it the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose
Sharing God and a Sharing World, page 150-152
1995 jointly [ublished by ISPCK (Kashmere Gate, Delhi, India) & CSS (Tiruvalla, Kerala, India)

Nurturing Prayer

Nurturing Prayer

Be gentle toward yourself. Sometimes you will have wandering thoughts, distractions during prayer. Don't fight them or force them down. Perhaps they are signals of deep wounded areas within that will need attention... If they surface during prayer, envision yourself lifting them lovingly and putting them in to the healing hands of Jesus Christ. If they seem trivial distractions, don't use force. Smile at them as you would at a little child at play at the edges of your consciousness.

You won't always feel deep love for God or deep longing for prayer. There are seasons of the spirit just as there are seasons during the year. As with any committed friendship, there will be times when you feel much emotional concentration on the other and times when you feel blank and dry. This does not weaken or invalidate the prayer in the least. Some of the most powerful times of prayer are the times when with humor and honesty we admit to God that at the moment we feel dry, bored, not in the mood, and yet, nevertheless, we are willing to be reached and nurtured. Great miracles of opening and change within can happen in these times.

If every day, no matter what your mood, you allow the love of God to feed you deeply through some form of prayer, if only for a few minutes, amazing changes can happen in your life. God, whose name is love, offers us - with every breath we take - a new, transforming energy for our tense, stress-filled bodies and an inner healing that reaches depths we had not dreamed!

Flora Slosson Wuellner
Prayer, Stress and Our Inner Wounds, pages 24-25
1985 Upper Room, Nashville,Tennessee

Healing Distortion

Whether our most deeply rooted problem is causedby sin or by wound, or (most likely) by a combination of the two, through Jesus we see a God who with inexorable powers of compassion calls forth the innermost, most hidden self of shame, weakness, and hurt into a healed llife.

This healing is possible not only because of the healing will and power of God but also because of the nature of our humanity wthin God.

Our energies, our powers, and our gifts came originally from the light and the hands of one Creator, who created all beings and powers in the divine image. The gift of freedom... endowed us with the power to misuse and pervert our gifts and energies and to pass on to others, woundingly, the hurting and the hurtful.

But no matter how distorted and hurtful our powers within, they were originally created from the divine surce, and they hold the potentiality for the unique and beautiful. In their healing, they are not wiped out or destroyed, for nothing in God's creation can ultimately be destroyed. Rather, they are restiored to their original, intended power of gifted creativity.

Our fear, when healed, becomes intuitive, empathetic compassion and sensitivity toward others.

Our destructive anger, when healed, becomes a passion, a hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness.

Our perfectionism, our compulsion to organize and dominate, when healed, becomes released, joyous power to build and create.

Our intertia and our withdrawals, when healed, become increasing powers for peace and integrity.

Our possessiveness, our jealousies, and our physical addictions, when healed, become growing released powers to become lovers and healers of the world around us.

Flora Slosson Wuellner
Prayer, Stress and Our Inner Wounds, pages 49-50
1985 Upper Room, Nashville,Tennessee

Spiritual Maturity II

The individual also needs to develop a sense of inner identity that
demonstrates the uniqueness of his/ her qualities as a creation. We all
desire a personal connection of our essence with that of the divine. St.
Gregory Palamas speaks of the power of the Eucharist to connect each one of
us personally to the Holy Trinity. All the sacraments of the church are
gifts of the Holy Spirit that bring us up close and personal with the Holy
Trinity. St. Gregory says, "At the reception of the Eucharist our minds
become the minds of Christ. St. Nilus of Sinai says every "Prayer is an
ascent of the mind to God." Within the witness and spiritual practices of
our church we possess the integrated path and expression to personally
access God.

Spiritual identity is the basis and core principal that provides us the
meaning of why we are Orthodox Christians. It directs a system of
orientation that guides our soul and spirit energy. Jung views the search
for the path of identity as "The center to possessing a complete integration and individuation of our selfhood." C.S. Lewis said, "Developing these qualities of Divine Love...transform our hearts." St. Augustine in his City of God defines this further. "Thy has made us, for thyself and our hearts have no rest till it comes to thee."

Why with all of the resources we possess as a well-established institution
can we not achieve these objectives? Gordon Allport of Harvard defined the
process of faith development with a level of deep spiritual insight. A
growing knowledge of self and an awareness of its place in the cosmos begins our path to spiritual wholeness. Likening to the words of St. Peter he assumes the call to the royal priesthood and the level of responsibility for us all to possess within the priesthood of all believers. This begins the path toward union with the Divine. Within Orthodoxy we would call this theosis and this is preconditioned on possessing metanoia, which is repentance. This path of union is all included in our interior cross to God in the form of askesis; which is that struggle to possess control of our passions and thoughts. As we acquire acceptance and trust in the spirit, we discover that synergeia with the Divine.

In synergeia, there is personal growth from an immature religion to mature
religion. Religion in its immaturity is a narcissistic pursuit of self-love. With maturity, religion is "not directed by impulse and fear. It tends to be rather control and direct toward a goal that is no longer determined by mere self-interest."

"Developing the qualities and identity of spiritual maturity in Orthodoxy"
Hon. Dr. Robert Scott, D.MIN (The Hellenic Chronicle, March 2000)
Keynote address: Twelfth Annual Meeting of Orthodox Clergy and Laity (OCL):
Berkeley, California, Radisson Hotel, Berkeley Marina, November 12-14, 1999.

Spiritual Maturity I

Holy Spirit is a divine spark that lifts up our souls. Carl Jung, the
Swiss psychoanalyst, spoke of the Divine Nous. "Man did not create the
Spirit but the Spirit makes him creative, always spurring him on, giving him enthusiasm and inspiration." This divine inspiration leads to the
transcendence of self. This process begins with the transformation of the
heart and the contrition of soul as the genesis from which the fruits of the Spirit come forth.

Therefore, what are the elements that constitute spiritual integrity? St.
Peter and St. Paul speak of our unique and special relationship with God.
Our spiritual identity is rooted in the personal relationship that we all
possess with the Divine Creator. This relationship extends our identity
beyond the realm of words and thoughts into a process of spiritual action.
Prof. George Flovosky of Harvard University said, "A Christian has to feel
himself personally in the presence of God." Jung observes that this level of integration is part of the process of individuation. This integration is a transformation of the self and a harmonizing of the unconscious elements and conscious elements of our psyche. This harmony of self and our sense of spiritual identity is the collective dilemma that our Orthodoxy in America is immersed in today. We have integrated many spiritual symbols as a conscious aspect of our faith, but unconsciously within our interior cross we are terribly conflicted as we do not live the Gospel that we believe in.

Our spiritual identity is manifested by a consistent behavior. Aristotle
said, "We are what we repeatedly do. The pursuit of excellence is not an act but a habit."

This level of spiritual insight is impossible to achieve unless we develop
the final and most difficult to attain quality which is spiritual maturity.
The process of maturation and maturity is a major social ailment in our
society. Maturation is a process of growth and how many in our society live
an existence of emotional and spiritual death because they fail to develop
themselves. Their emptiness of self and their inability to fulfill those
innate and instinctive necessity of the soul, is the foundation of all
social ills in our society. Erich Fromm, the German psychoanalyst and social philosopher, wrote extensively about the psychological conditions of
identity and maturity.

Our need for identity is a condition of mans search for meaning. All our
passions and strivings are an attempt to find an answer to our existence.
Individuals that adhere to the quality of relatedness seek to find
satisfaction by loving others outside themselves. In this cooperative union
the greater good is created. In being assumed into the pursuit of the
greater good our personal integrity and freedom is enhanced and there is an
artful extension of our individuality. The narcissists' path is one of
self-love. This inward journey is not to the interior cross but to our ego
for there is no attempt to gather our soul energy for the benefit of others. These egos seek only self-pleasure.

Those who follow the path of relatedness can find transcendence and as many
of our Church Fathers have written, the transformation of the heart. Fromm
said: "In man's need for transcendence lies the root of love...the
satisfaction of the need to create, leads to happiness." C.S. Lewis, the
British theologian, goes on a little further: "All human things pass away
and therefore, we should not let our happiness depend on them but on the
only Beloved One who will never pass away." In all our striving for the
external possessions and privileges of our American society, we have cut
ourselves off from those internal and transcendent qualities; in which true
joy and love are only found.

"Developing the qualities and identity of spiritual maturity in Orthodoxy"
Hon. Dr. Robert Scott, D.MIN (The Hellenic Chronicle, March 2000)
Keynote address: Twelfth Annual Meeting of Orthodox Clergy and Laity (OCL):
Berkeley, California, Radisson Hotel, Berkeley Marina, November 12-14, 1999.



I am waiting for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the Age to come.

Oriented towards the future, the [Christian] Creed ends upon a note of expectation. But, although the Last Things should form our point of constant reference throughout this earthly life, it is not possible for us to speak in any detail about the realities of the Age to come.

"Beloved," writes St. John, "now we are children of God, but it has not yet been made clear what we shall be" (1 John 3:2). Through our faith in Christ, we possess here and now a living, personal relationship with God; and we know, not as a hypothesis but as a present fact of experience, that this relationship already contains within itself the seeds of eternity. But what it is like to live not within the time sequence but in the eternal NOW, not under the conditions of the fall but in a universe where God is "all in all" - of this we have only partial glimpses but no clear conception; and so we should speak always with caution, respecting the need for silence.

There are, however, at least three things that we are entitled to affirm without ambiguity: that Christ will come again in glory; that at His coming we shall be raised from the dead and judged; and that of His kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33).

Archimandrite (now Bishop) Kallistos Ware
The Orthodox Way, pages 133-134
St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York
1st Paperback Edition 1979 (Revised since this edition in 1995)



The fundamental vocation and goal of each and every person is to share in the life of God. We have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. The descent of God in the Person of Jesus Christ has made possible the human ascent to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that each Christian is involved in a movement toward God which is known as theosis or deification.

Theosis describes the spiritual pilgrimage to which each person becomes ever more perfect, ever more holy, ever more united with God. It is not a static relationship, nor does it take place only after death. On the contrary, theosis is a movement of love toward God which begins for each Christian with the rites of Baptism and which continues throughout this life, as well as the life which is to come.

Salvation means liberation from sin, death and evil. Redemption means our repossesion by God. In Orthodoxy, both salvation and redemption are within the context of theosis.

This rich vision of Christian life was expressed well by Saint Peter when he wrote in the early pages of his second Epistle that we are called "to become partakers of the divine nature." It was affirmed by Saint Basil the Great when he described man as "the creature who has received the order to become a god."

These are certainly bold affirmations which must be properly understood. The Orthodox Church understands theosis as a union with the energies of God and not the essence of God which always remains hidden and unknown.

However, the experience of the Church testifies that this is a true union with God. It is also one which is not pantheistic, because in this union the divine and the human retain their unique characteristics. In this sense, Orthodoxy believes that human life reaches its fulfillment only when it becomes divine.

Rev. Demetrios Vakarios
Aspects of the Treasures of Orthodoxy
For Visitors of Saint Demetrios' Church of Thessaloniki Greece
pp. 102-104
1985, Philoptochos of Saint Demetrios' Greek Orthodox Church
Thessaloniki, Greece



One of the scriptures appointed for Thanksgiving is Psalm 118. It's an
important Psalm for us to keep in mind about Thanksgiving and gratitude to God.

It begins, "O, give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious, because his
mercy endures forever."

One of the things that we know about God just from that verse is that God is gracious. That means He is full of grace and that He has grace to give. We give thanks to Him for that, and for His mercy that is forever.. Why do we give thanks to Him? His mercy endures forever. In other words, we cannot do enough to earn His mercy. It's going to continue. We give thanks to God all the time for His mercy.

Then the Psalmist writes, "Let Israel now confess that he is gracious and that his mercy endures forever. Let the house of Aaron now confess that his mercy endureth forever. Yea, let them now fear that the Lord confess that his mercy endures forever." Everybody should be confessing this.
"Confessing," in this context, means to speak it out loud. Confession is supposed to be spoken out loud. So when you confess something, you're
speaking it out loud. It's important that we do this once in a while. The psalm continues.

"I called upon the Lord in trouble and the Lord heard me." So part of what
we can be grateful for is that when we're in trouble, we call upon God and
He hears us.

"The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man does to me. The Lord
taketh my part with them that help me, therefore shall I see my desire upon my enemies." In other words, we don't have to worry about taking care of those people who are against us. God will take care of them.

"It is better to trust in the Lord than put any confidence in human kind."
This is an important thing for us to understand about being grateful at our
Thanksgiving - that even when somebody gives us something or if we get
something from somebody, it is actually because of God's mercy that it's
available. Because without God's mercy, with each of us after each other's stuff, after each other's belongings, each other's prestige, each other's pride, in other words, without God, without a better way of life, without a loving kindness that God gives to us inside our hearts, we cannot get that which is good from anywhere else. We will be fighting all the time. We will be at war. We will be at each other's throats. We will want to have more. I want what you have. You want what I have. Then people start taking it. So it is obvious that any goodness that comes to us is part of God's mercy. It has to be part of God's mercy as it does not seem flow from us without divine intervention. So we're grateful for everything that someone else gives us. Our proper response when somebody gives something to us is, "To God be thanks," and "Oh, and thank you, too." The primary source of all good is God.

From the edited transcription of a sermon "THANKSGIVING AND PSALM 118" delivered extemporaneously by Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock on November 26, 2008 after Thanksgiving Prayers at Holy Transfiguration Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin. The rest of the sermon transcription can be found at


Vision of Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios

Vision of Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios
Eternal Memory - November 24, 1996

“The subtle art of image making for the future needs skilled craftsmen as well as the gift of the Spirit. The various crises of our time should be used neither as occasions for doom-saying pessimism nor as a chance to peddle empty-hope optimism. Every crises is a judgment, a call to see where things have gone wrong and to seek to set matters right, both within our consciousness and in society.”
(from Human Presence 1987 p3)

“True unity, abiding unity, is not possible except in the good.”
(from Cosmic Man 1980 p11)

“The vision that beckons defies human word and concept. The mind cannot envision what God has set in store for creation. The destiny is good without mitigation, pure joy in love, peace in community with all, ecstasy without triumph, sweeter than anything our mind and senses can now enjoy. The human mind can neither conceive of nor imagine what God has set in store for us and for all creation. Our fantasy and our imagination cannot soar so high. Even when we finally experience it, it will be beyond all language and concept.

“It is the Spirit that assures me of this. And the Spirit leads me there. That Spirit, we have a foretaste. The reality will surpass all present hope and human expectation.

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, one true God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

(from the closing page of his unfinished autobiography - Love’s Freedom 1997 p193)

May this vision be a guiding inspiration for us to continue to work for goodness and service for all humanity. Most precious Thirumeni pray for us!

The Most Rewarding Virtue

The Most Rewarding Virtue

Respect for others is proof of one's nobility. It evokes others' appreciation as it satisfies their craving for love, respect and acceptance. The craving for recognition is in fact the deepest craving in man. When we see others as God's children and as fellow-beings like ourselves, we tend to respect them instinctively, irrespective of their socio-economic status. The spirit of respect creates infinite joy, peace and progress everywhere. On the other hand, lack of respect and appreciation will cause unnecessary disappointment and failure.

St. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the paramount importance of show respect for others. "Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward." (Col.3:23-24) "In humility count others better than yourselves. (Phil. 2:3) "Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor." (Rom 12:10)

In India, there is a custom of greeting by simultaneously bowing down and joining the palms and saying, 'Namasthe' (I bow to you). This kind of greeting symbolizes the humility of the one who greet and the respect for the one who is greeted. Such spirit of reverence should permeate all other activities.

We have to respect people who are less talented and versatile than we are. They too are God's children. It is not their fault that they do not have great talents. God gives different talents to His children so that all can work together in harmony for the common good.

We never lose anything by respecting others. In fact, we get the highest blessings in life, love and respect in return for respecting others. We empower people by respecting them, giving them more hope and courage to succeed in life....

The question then arises why some people refuse to respect others. Perhaps, they erroneously think that if they respect others, they may be held in low esteem. But the truth is just the opposite. When people respect others and speak well of them, others in turn will be inclined to respect them and speak well of them.

Just imagine everyone respecting others whole-heartedly. Then there will be universal love, joy, peace and progress. Even foes will become friends. Respect for others is the remedy for rampant ill-feelings in the world. The tragedy is that even many of the educated people do not practice this virtue. Let us, therefore, start afresh, determine to make the virtue of respecting others the supreme virtue and an important motto of our mortal life on earth.

Mathews Mar Barnabas Metropolitan
NE American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Church
The Infinite Potential of Everyone, 2009
page 29-32

Copies of the book for $10 are available at:
Indian Orthodox Church Center
80-34 Commonwealth Blvd.
Bellerose, NY 11426-1842
MGOCSM Student Center
Kottayam, 686001 INDIA

To Transmit the Message of Love and Respect

To Transmit the Message of Love and Respect

Excerpted from the transcript of a video interview by Charlie Rose

[At the end of 50+ minute interview, the following:]


I think that I'm simply a servant of God and of my faith. I tried to do my
best according to the necessities and possibilities of today at the
beginning of the 21st century, to be in contact with the reality of everyday life, not to live only in theory or only within the walls of the church, but to be present in among the faithful everywhere.

That's why I travel a lot, and sometimes I am criticized that I travel too
much. But my feeling is that I have to bring the message of the gospel, the
love of the church, the sympathy of the church all over the world.

But if you like, if I am permitted to say, not only to Orthodox faith, but
to all human beings, an environment for which we work and try to make a
small contribution is not a matter of Orthodox only. It is a matter of all
of human beings.

I try to transmit the message of love and respect, of course, for God our
creator, for all of our fellow human beings, and for the creation, which, I
repeat, is sacred because it came out of the hands of God.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is a very, very important historic religious
institution based in Turkey, in Istanbul of today, for 1,700 years, if you
can imagine, Mr. Rose.

And such an old institution which offers so many things to the church and
the humankind, not only as religion but also as civilization, culture, must
be protected in order to survive and to continue its ecumenical mission, its ecumenical message, which is spiritual, is human, is a message of love,
tolerance, reconciliation.

This is what I try to do. And if there is such a positive appreciation of
my humble deeds, this is an honor for me.

CHARLIE ROSE: As it is for me to sit with you. Your all holiness, I thank
you very much for this time.


[End of Interview]


Let Us Dedicate and Renew Ourselves

Let Us Dedicate and Renew Ourselves

As adopted children of God the Father through Holy Orthodoxy, let us dedicate and renew ourselves and our lives to Christ our God, who is mystically the whole Church, holding us in His hands so that none of us is lost.

As sheep, let us commit to following our shepherd who will tend to us even if one of us is lost.

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, we dedicate our efforts to peace in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, in our world.

As followers of He whose love is without boundaries, we dedicate ourselves to loving others, whether they are friend or foe - stranger or neighbor.

We dedicate ourselves to our personal improvement and spiritual development, so that we may become better servants of our Lord.

We dedicate ourselves to good and holy work wherever we encounter it, as Mother Teresa of India has said, by "doing even small things with great love."

Today, we dedicate also this chapel and all the fruits of our labor in this ministry to God to whom all glory is due. As our great Thirumeni, Paulos Mar Gregorios (of blessed memory) said - "Without Divine Aid, our human efforts can bear no significant fruit." So we bow our heads and pray:

Christ God, this is Thy ministry and we are Thy servants. We ask for Divine Aid. Bless this space with Thy presence; with the presence of Thy holy angels and of all the saints. We ask for an increase of all good
things so that we may continue to be instruments of constructive good. We ask for a removal all curses and stumbling blocks so that our human flaws and weaknesses, as well as our enemies and naysayers, are not impediments to fulfilling of Thy divine will. This we ask according to Thy infinite mercy and loving-kindness; together with the Father and the Holy Living Spirit now and forever. Amen.

Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
From a sermon for Dedication Sunday ~ delivered November 10, 2002
What distinguishes us from the secular world around us?
Posted at http://frjohbrian.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-distinguishes-us-from-secular.html



" Avoid arrogance, quarrel and pride while dealing in Church matters; instead, let your humility shine before others. Those who place their trust in God, and satisfy the people are blessed "

" As far as possible never do evil to anyone: or it will ruin you, your children and your house. Hold on steadfastly to prayer, fasting and works of charity. Do them with faith and devotion "

" You must regularly read the Holy Bible. You must obey your spiritual fathers and increase their good name and honor before God and men by your exemplary life "

" Those who disobey their parents and join their enemies are liable to be cursed by them. They will not inherit the legacy of their parents and will be disqualified from this world as well as the other "

" If there is quarrel in family, keep away from it. A quarrelsome house is the haven of the devil; and God is nowhere near it "

" Be rich in love of man and love of God. Brothers should never cheat each other. When you move away from unity you are sure to move away from God "

" It is not spiritual wisdom to try to conquer the enemy with evil than with virtue. If you depend on the God of Truth and go out with a truthful heart, God will accomplish things for you "

" Loss and difficulties come when God moves away. On such occasions, never look for one reason or other. Instead, know that God has kept away because of your sins: then cling to God, he will show mercy upon you "

" Prayer is the inspiration of childhood, the refuge of youth and peace during old age "

" Forgiveness is strength. It gives a person a good name. It is the distinguishing feature of righteous people "

" When we pray with a heart full of devotion, God accepts it and we receive blessings in return "

" Whatever is due to the Church must be given forthwith. If your mind is pure in that matter, your house will also be pure. If in such things you think of any gain or revenue, then you will lose that ten-fold "

" He who prays to God everyday would never be without truth, morality, faith and devotion, and would never turn against his master or society "

" Remember God in everything. Let no one grieve because of you. Never let go an opportunity to do something good. Only those things will remain with you till the end "

" If man does not raise his hands in prayer for himself and for the sake of his people, even after knowing God, how can we say man is better than animals who are not wise and cannot think about their future"

Icon of St Gregorios posted with these sayings at http://maruroopa.blogspot.com/2009/11/quotes-from-st.html

John Brian
" Loss and difficulties come when God moves away. On such occasions, never look for one reason or other. Instead, know that God has kept away because of your sins: then cling to God, he will show mercy upon you "

perhaps the quote is not a good translation into English. What the St Gregorios is reminding us is that our sins keep us separated from God - notice he said that we need to cling to God. Orthodoxy always emphasizes our free will choices. God is always near - we move from Him.... it is sad that even with His ever-present availability we still seprate ourselves from Him.... that is why we say, "Lord, have mercy"

Prayer for Those Who Are Abused

Prayer for Those Who Are Abused

Lord Jesus Christ, our True God, You dwell in the highest and You care for the humble. You search the reins and the heart and clearly discern the most hidden things of men. Light from eternity, You are the ever-existing One, with You there is no shadow that veils nor hidden thing that Your Light cannot pierce.

Come, O King Immortal and gently touch those who have been abused by parents, teachers, clergy, or others in authority over them. Deep within so many of Your brothers and sisters are the scars, the running sores, the rot left behind by memories of the experiences they have had at the hands of others. Some are wounded so deeply that they cannot love, they cannot feel, they cannot live except with a hard shell around them that cuts others off and seals them into the tomb of hopelessness and pain that feeds on itself and slowly destroys the capacity to receive Your grace.

Lord, gently touch Your sons and daughters through us. Help us to reach out and to be so open and unconditionally accepting that the shells may be broken, the hurt may begin to be salved, and Your servants-our brothers and sisters in the human family-may begin to heal. Help us, Your servants, to be the Good Samaritan to our hurting brothers and sisters. Let us be gentle, but not intrusive; help us to know when to speak to and when to just BE there for them.

Help us understand that sometimes Your broken servants need us to take two steps back when we think we should push ahead two steps, even when we think that push is gentle. Help us to understand that sometimes a hug is worth an hour of speaking. Help us to understand that sensitivity to the hurt is the first step and that we are probing psychological and spiritual wounds that are just as real as physical wounds.

Help us to understand that prayer for Your suffering servants is always the right way because it is You Who will heal, even when it seems that we are so great a part in that healing. Help us also to understand that we may not know ourselves what our brothers and sisters need and to be open to letting You give us direction by the Holy Spirit.

Lord, You have allowed Your servants to be cast down. Raise them up by Your healing. You have allowed them to be struck and wounded deeply. Heal them by Your power, always gentle to those who are hurting. If You send the Holy Spirit to work through us, let Him give us what You know your suffering servants need.

Lord, we are all wounded by events and people on our pilgrim journey. Some of us are hurt more than others. Help us to be like Simon of Cyrene to those we see around us who are hurting. Through the prayers of the Mother of God, of the intercessions of the Holy Apostles, saints, martyrs, patriarchs, confessors, and other blessed spirits whom You have gathered into Your Kingdom, and of the intercessions of all the Holy Angels, Lord, hear our prayers on behalf of Your suffering servants, our brothers and sisters in You and in the whole human family. Amen.

posted anonymously to the Orthodox Forum yahoo group 10-17-09

Love and Honor Every Man

Love and Honor Every Man

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:23-24

Love every man in spite of his falling into sin. Never mind the sins: remember that the man is still the image of God. Other people's weaknesses strike us; but we too are not without evil - perhaps indeed there is more in us than in others. At least in respect to sin all are equal: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

We all equally need His mercy. Therefore, besides loving one another, we must bear with one another, in order that our heavenly Father may forgive us: "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who tresspass against us."

So, with all your soul love and honor in every man the image of God, not taking account of his sins, for God alone is holy, God alone is holy, God alone is without sin. See how much He loves us, how much He has created and still creates for us, punishing us mercifully and forgiving us so abundantly. Honor the man, in spite of his sins, because he can always amend.


Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name; deliver us and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake!
Pslam 78/79:9

Every sin proceeds from the spirit of evil. He who sins is enslaved by sin, is torutred by sins; therefore, do not be too severe with him who sins, but be gentle with him, remembering our common infirmity. Pity the sinner as one who is sick, as one who has lost his way, as one who is walking in darkness, as one who is bound with iron fetters,as one whose mind is deranged: for the sinner is all of these things.

You must watch gently over such a one in every way, so that sin may not darken him, may not bind him, may not burn him, may not plunge him into sickness, may not destroy him.

St. John of Kronstadt
Counsels on the Christian Priesthood
Selected Passages from My Life in Christ
edited and introduced by W. Jardine Grisbrooke
pp. 111-114
1994, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
Crestwood, New York


PART 2 of 2

What is the cause of this failure of self-hatred, this failure to be displeasing to oneself, which seems to be the central sin at the root of scapegoating behavior of those I call evil? The cause is not, I believe, an absent conscience... This is hardly the case with those I call evil. Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to the social norms and what others might think of them...

The words "image," "appearance," and "outwardly" are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil. While they seem to lack any motivation to BE good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their "goodness" is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie. This is why they are the "people of the lie."

Actually, the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach... We lie only when we are attempting to cover up something we know to be illicit...there is no need to hide unless we first feel that something needs to be hidden.

We come know to a sort of paradox. I have said that evil people feel themselves to be perfect. At the same time, however, I think they have an unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is from this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness. Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the psychopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness... The problem is not a defect of conscience but the effort to deny the conscience its due. We become evil by attempting hide ourselves from ourselves. The wickedness of evil is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover up process. Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, MD
People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
Pp. 71-77
1983, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, NYC


PART 1 of 2

The evil do not serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to themselves. In fact, they do not bear it all...and it is out of their failure to put themselves on trial that their evil arises.

The varieties of people's wickedness are manifold. As a result of their refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness, the evil ones become uncorrectable grab bags of sin. They are, for instance, in my experience, remarkably greedy people. Thus they are cheap - so cheap that their "gifts" may be murderous... I suggested the most basic sin is laziness. [next] I suggest it may be pride - because all sins are reparable except the sin of believing one is without sin. But perhaps the question of which sin is the greatest is, on a certain level, a moot issue. All sins betray - and isolate us from - both the divine and our fellow creatures...

A predominant characteristic of the of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection...

Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection. Since the evil, deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world's fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil; on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others...

Evil, then, is most often committed in order to scapegoat, and the people I label as evil as chronic scapegoaters... In The Road Less Traveled, I defined evil "as the exercise of political power- that is the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion - in order to avoid spiritual growth." In other words, the evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgement of one's need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgement, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection.

Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves. As life often threatens their self-image of perfection, they are often busily engaged in hating and destroying that life - usually in the name of righteousness. The fault, however, may not be so much that they life as that they do NOT hate the sinful part of themselves...

Dr. M. Scott Peck, MD
People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
Pp. 71-77
1983, Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, NYC



Sometimes evil must be challenged, and sometimes love requires intervention. Any intervention, however, must not be motivated by vengeance or self-righteousness. Instead, we must see ourselves as equally sinful and in need of mercy. Our goal must be restoring the person to the love of God.

"Love sinners but despise their deeds," said St. Isaac of Syria. "Remember that you share the stench of Adam, and you also are clothed in his infirmity. To the one who has need of ardent prayer and soothing words do not give reproof instead, lest you destroy him and his soul be required from your hands. Imitate doctors who use cold things against fevers."

How can we evaluate another's deeds and respond to them, perhaps even bring about correction and justice, and yet not judge them? To answer the question, picture a courtroom. See where the judge sits? Don't sit there. That's God's seat, and he will judge on the last day.

Until that day we linger in the courtroom as the dear friend of the accused. This person may be doing evil and willful things, and be cocky and defiant and not want our friendship. Yet because we see what lies ahead, and we know that we are just as prone to sin, we do whatever we can to help him repent, turn, and escape the coming penalty.

At every Eucharist, Anna's congregation prays, "You came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief." This solidarity with all of fallen humankind removes our grounds for self-approval, while making us even more concerned that everyone find repentance and salvation. As we stand at the head of the army of sinners, we pray that God will have mercy on us all.

St. Isaac of Syria wrote, "And what is a merciful heart? It is burning for all creation, for men, for birds, for animals, and even for demons. At the remembrance and at the sight of them, the merciful man's eyes fill with tears that arise from the great compassion that urges his heart. It grows tender and cannot endure hearing or seeing any injury or slight sorrow to anything in creation. Because of this, such a man continually offers
tearful prayer even for irrational animals and for the enemies of truth and for all who harm it, that they may be guarded and forgiven."

Frederica Mathewes-Green
The Illumined Heart, pp 92-93
2001, Paraclete Press
Brewster, Massachusetts



God is love and the church has to reflect that nature. It is love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts; without love, there is neither church nor ministry. Failure to love lies at the root of the failure in the church's ministry. Where there is no love, the Spirit of God is not at work; the church may work all day and all night, and yet it may catch nothing (John 21:3). Sociologically it may be growing, in numbers, wealth and institutions; but it is all hay and stubble that the fire will destroy. . .

Actions, words and institutions are legitimate instruments of the church's ministry. But they should spring from love, for God is love. . . God's love was what Christ manifested in his incarnate ministry. The church's ministry is to continue that manifestation.

H.E. Metropolitan Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios of New Delhi (d 1996) The Meaning and Nature of Diakonia WCC Publications 1988


Bishop Kallistos Ware
Excerpts from an interviewed in Parabola Magazine, February 1985

In the Orthodox spiritual tradition we often use the word “heart.” By heart we mean not just the emotions or feelings but the deep center, the true self. Our aim is to discover the place of the heart, to unite the brain with its knowledge to the heart; and in the heart also feeling is found. Our aim, then, is to integrate them on the level of the deep heart. And the body is also involved in this, because the body is not a piece of clothing but out integral self. The body plays its part through ascetic effort, by which I don’t mean just self-denial, but self-control. It plays its part through symbolic actions. There are ways also in which the rhythms of the body, the rhythm of the breathing, for example, can be used in prayer and meditation. The body is not just a piece of matter to be ignored, and still less something evil to be hated. The body is an aspect of our self, which we are to live to the full.

The whole person is not just a self-contained, self-centered unity. The whole person is a person who is on the one side open to God, and on the other side open to other human persons. The human being without God is not truly human. We were created to enter into a relationship with God, to be in dialogue with Him, and if that relationship is not present something essential is lacking from our personhood. Equally, we are created to relate to other human persons. It has been said that there is no true man unless there are two men entering into communication with one another. The isolated individual is not a real person. A real person is one who lives in and for others. And the more personal relationships we form with others, the more truly we realize ourselves as persons. This idea of openness to God, openness to other persons, could be summed up under the word “love.” We become truly personal by loving God and by loving other humans. By love I don’t mean merely an emotional feeling, but a fundamental attitude. In its deepest sense, love is the life, the energy, of God Himself in us.

For me, as an Orthodox Christian, the journey towards wholeness involves prayer, in the sense of personal, private prayer, standing in silence before God; but also in the sense of communal prayer, sharing in the services of the Church, sharing in the Sacraments. It involves, beyond prayer, joining in all the other practices of the Church; in fasting, in the reading of Holy Scripture. Is it possible to grow without these things? God is very generous. Man people who have no religious practice do grow in self-understanding, do show creative love towards others. They are open to their fellow humans. And there are many people who are open towards God who do not belong to any particular church. I do not wish to judge them. I accept the authenticity and integrity of their inner life. Yet, I believe that in its fullness, the growth of the human person towards wholeness is intended by God to take place within church life.



Prayer is doxology, praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication and
intercession to God. "When I prayed I was new," wrote a great theologian of
Christian antiquity, "but when I stopped praying I became old." Prayer is
the way to renewal and spiritual life. Prayer is aliveness to God. Prayer is
strength, refreshment, and joy. Through the grace of God and our disciplined
efforts prayer lifts us up from our isolation to a conscious, loving
communion with God in which everything is experienced in a new light. Prayer
becomes a personal dialogue with God, a spiritual breathing of the soul, a
foretaste of the bliss of God's kingdom.

As we pray deeply within our hearts we grow in prayer. By the grace of God
we suddenly catch a glimpse of the miracle of the presence of the Holy
Spirit working within us. At first it is only a spark but later it becomes a
flame freeing and energizing our whole being. To experience the fire of
God's holy love, to give it space within us to do its cleansing and healing
work as a breath of the Holy Spirit, and to use it as light and power for
daily living -- such are the goals as well as the fruits of true prayer.

(sent anonymously to Fr. John-Brian, if you know the source, let us know...)

Five Stages In Contemplative Prayer

Five Stages In Contemplative Prayer

The Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Be Merciful"

We have mainly five stages. This is, roughly, the course of the development of the Jesus Prayer. Each stage has its own grace.

+ Firstly. The reciting of the Jesus Prayer VOCALLY. We repeat the Jesus Prayer with our lips while trying at the same time to focus our attention on the words of the prayer.

+ Secondly. Then the nous takes the Jesus Prayer and says it noetically [WITHIN, MENTALLY OR SPIRITUALLY]. Our whole attention is found again in the words but it is concentrated on the nous [the soul's attention, the Eye of the soul]. When the nous gets tired then we start again to vocalize the prayer with the lips. After the nous has been rested we start again to concentrate our attention there.
St. Neilos advises: Always remember God and your nous will become heaven.

+ Thirdly. The Jesus Prayer then comes down into THE HEART. Nous and heart are now united and combined with each other. Attention is centered in the heart and it is immersed again into the words of the Jesus Prayer which has an invisible depth.

+ Fourthly. The Prayer becomes now self-activating [PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING]. It is done while the ascetic is working or eating or discussing or while he is in church or even while he is sleeping. "I sleep but by heart waketh" is said in the Holy Scriptures (Song of Songs 5:2).

+ Fifthly. Then one feels a divine soft flame within his soul burning it and making it joyful [LOVE, DEVOTION, WARMTH AND VISIONS OF DIVINE LIGHT]. The grace of Christ lives in the heart. The Holy Trinity is established. "We become the habitation of God, when He lives within us, established in the memory. Thus we become the temple of God when Remembrance of His is not disturbed by earthly cares, and mind is not distracted by unexpected thoughts. Fleeing all that, the Friend of God withdraws into Him, chasing away the passions which invite intemperate thoughts, and occupying himself in a way which leads to virtue." (Saint Basil the Great) Thus he feels the Divine Presence within himself and this grace passes through the body which becomes dead to the world and is crucified [THE NOUS RISES ABOVE BODY-CONSCIOUSNESS DURING CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE]. And this is the extremist stage which is sometimes connected with the Vision of the Uncreated Light of the Holy Trinity.

Archimandrite Hierotheos Vlachos
"A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain"
Birth of Theotokos Monastery, Levadia, ISBN: 960-7070-04-6



A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why?" asked the bearer? "What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."


God calls us not as we should be but as we are. Each of us has our own
unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. If we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to bring beauty and grace in service of God and humanity. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste.

So when you hear God calling you to the tasks He has appointed for you, don't be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow God to take advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway. Go out boldly, knowing that in our weaknesses, we find His strength. Remember that God doesn't always call the qualified, but He always qualifies the called.

Source for Cracked Pot folk tale is obscure
Commentary by Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
"Healing and Thanksgiving" sermon, November 24, 1999

Devotional Thoughts for the feast of Transfiguration 6th Aug 09

Devotional Thoughts for the feast of Transfiguration 6th Aug 09
Reading: From the Gospel according to St. Luke 9: 27 – 36

Dear and Respected Brethren,

For the last so many centuries we the entire Christendom is using the term “Transfiguration” for the feast described in the above reading from the Holy Scriptures. It is clear that the radical changes noticed by St. Peter, St. John and St. James were not at all due to an effect of the so called Transfiguration. It was a revelation of God’s own nature.

Transfiguration literally means: “Alter form or appearance of”. In the event our Lord was not changing his form or appearance of his physique. He just removed a covering from Him and remained in His true glory and grace. The divine glory and brightness was too hard for the ordinary people to bear with the daily interactions with Him. With this consideration our Lord hid His glory when He incarnated and lived among us. If this argument is acceptable to one and all, a question remains unanswered. “Why did Lord Jesus revealed His original and real glory and glitter?

The answer is very simple. Our Lord’s incarnation itself is to take the entire mankind to have His glory, glitter and brightness. So He wanted to caution us to attempt to grow in spirituality and its perfection, so that we all could inherit his divine qualities and natures. When we all will transfigure, by being in Christ the event will a feast of Transfiguration for the humanity.

Every year we observe and celebrate the feast of Transfiguration on 6th August. The day is inviting each and every one of us to grow to a higher level of spirituality and holiness, so that you and me could inherit the blessing of transfiguration. The actual transfiguration is to take place in the humanity. So let us desire for it and do whatever we could to attain this most blessed experience. While we might attend the Holy Eucharist service on this most important day, let our minds be attracted to the desire to obtain the transfiguration in our lives. Let us make sure that we long to live in Lord Christ, though we accept the Holy mysteries. Let us genuinely long and desire to grow in Lord Jesus and submit ourselves for His entire disposal.

May God bless us all.

Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Doing the Right Thing

Doing the Right Thing
Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Meriter Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin
August 19, 2001
Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32; Philippians 4:8-20

In name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

"Which of the sons did the will of his father?" or to rephrase the question
in modern language, "which of the sons did the right thing?"

Of course, the answer comes quickly and easily to us.

Action speaks louder than words, as the saying goes. The father must have
felt honored by the first son who quickly agreed to the paternal request...
and must have felt disappointed with the second that said he did not want to
help his father. Yet the first son did not follow up on his word, and it was
the second who had regrets then went to follow his father's request without
another thought.

Jesus quickly compares the sons to faithful believers on one hand and
non-believers (e.g. Gentiles, sinners, etc.) on the other. He warns the
faithful believers that the non-believers will be in Heaven, receiving all
the blessings of God, before them. Actions do speak louder than words.

One of the implications is that some of the Gentile and other non-believers
are in fact doing the will of the Father of us all without promising they
would or could.

This reminds me of an idea given to me by a wise Russian monk many years
ago. Everyone, regardless of belief or non-belief, already knows the will
of God. We need to let Christ sort it all out later. Here we are given the
notion that unbelievers will be in heaven. This is a good reminder that
True Christians know that it is great work to focus on following Christ,
being Christian, rather than making sure everyone else is.

WE all know in our hearts the next right thing we need to do in our lives.
We may not like it, perhaps we would prefer that someone else does it, but
we know what it is. You know what that is.

Maybe it is unfinished emotional or family business. Like the first son,
maybe we promised to do something, but did not follow up. Now is the time
to repent, turn our minds to the doing the right thing. We probably do not
need to talk with anyone - we'd probably only make excuses anyway. Let us
just do it - the right thing - the will of God - the call of our hearts.

Sometimes we can be physically or emotionally overwhelmed by the work in
front of us. Perhaps, this is why we put it off. Anxiety, not busy-ness,
is the top reason for procrastination. Procrastination. I have had problems
with procrastination over the years. One time, well actually a few times, I
tried to deal with my procrastination problem. I even tried to get to a
self-help group called Procrastinator's Anonymous. Of course, I was late.
On the door there was a sign that said, "Meeting postponed."

The unique unfolding of each of our lives, the fulfillment of our purpose
and mission in this life, follows the course of our decisions. But our
decisions can become nothing more than stones diverting a stream as it goes
down the mountainside or they can be attempts to stop the water flow. Even
the largest dams do not stop the flow of water. Slow it, divert it, but not
stop it.

We can choose as the second son to do the right thing. We can commit or
re-commit to the doing of God's will in our lives.

Doing the next right thing can be spontaneously given like a light bulb
going on or labored over like the reluctant teenager verbally challenging a
household chore. Regardless, we will be given (or most likely already have)
all the resources and training we need to accomplish the task at hand. If we
did not, we would not be called to act. Sometimes, it means asking for help,
admitting errors, or other seemingly unpleasant doses of humility. Let us
emulate the second son. Regardless of our reasons for balking the first
time, let us not be stubborn in our own will, but give way to the doing of
our Father's will.

Let us look at his epistle lesson to the Philippians for guidance.

4:9 "Those things which you have both learned and received and heard and
seen in me do and the God of peace shall be with you."
4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
4:19 "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in the
glory of Jesus Christ."
4:8 "Finally my brethren...."

May we learn to follow the quiet voice of Christ in our hearts, doing the
right thing, even if our words reject it at first. Lord, be a gentle and
affirming teacher as we listen.

May we become willing children in our Father's kingdom, not just with our
words, but in our actions. Lord, let our actions speak the greater truths
that can not always be spoken.


Posted http://frjohbrian.blogspot.com/2009/08/doing-right-thing.html



Saying 22:
[Amma Syncletica] also said,
Just as it is impossible to be at the same moment both a plant and a seed, so it is impossible for us to be surrounded by worldly honor and at the same moment bear heavenly fruit.

Most of us are a mosaic of maturity and immaturity. God creates us with wonderful potential: potential that needs tender nurturing and exposure to growth-filled experiences. When we patiently tend to our inner gardens, the seed of spirituality germinates. Growth, maturity, and fruitfulness are the result. Self-defeating, self-deceiving behaviors thwart this seed's attempts to grow, leaving us in stagnating immaturity.

Amma Syncletica consistently rejects worldly recognition. She is concerned that honors given by society may diminish ardent pursuit of the inner journey. Nothing is to detract us from the primacy of Jesus in our lives.

Saying 23:
She also said,
My children, we all want to be saved, but because of our habit of negligence, we swerve away from salvation.

Amma Syncletica is ...concerned about a mature living out of salvation that is serious about following Jesus. Negligence is deceptive, often initially appearing to be 'good.' Seemingly innocuous choices can begin to snowball - we become unaware and inattentive in many ways. This is why we must be watchful and attentive, discerning the direction of our choices.

Sayings of Amma Syncletica of Egypt, 5th Century Saint
Commentary by Laura Swan, OSB
Paulist Press, New York, 2001



At the same time "pleasing" can only be in a personal relation between
persons. So if we can express the sharing of the Divine Life as being, in a sense, an entering into the flow of things, into the Tao of things. Yet, it must be then understood that this fundamental Tao is of love between persons. This flow of things is fulfilled in the offspring of self to, in and with God.

Taking as I have here the theme.. that is Life itself whose sharing between creator and creature is Theosis, it becomes clear that this is more than a subjective and inner relationship. Theosis then is also that sense of the universe as moving towards an end and fruition which some, perhaps particularly in the Eastern Church, call the Transfigured Cosmos. It also must be in the transformation and transfiguration of social life, in the service of the needy, and in the disclosure of community as the mystery of human personhood. In all aspects, Theosis is the opening out of the Divine in and through the shared Life. To focus solely on any one aspect (whether ascetical inner search or social action) must risk.. losing dimensions of Theosis as well as of Life itself.

In this perspective Theosis appears as the philosopher's stone, the
convergence and full valuation of all things, individuals, societies, worlds within the acceptance of shared Life.

Bishop Seraphim Joseph Sigrist
Retired bishop of Sendai, Japan
"L'Chaim, Theosis as Life"
BECOMING DIVINE - Essays on Theosis in Honor of Father Alexander Men
Editor, Bishop Seraphim Joseph Sigrist, Copyright 2007, page 10



THEOSIS [..] is a word beloved of many of the Greek Fathers which, when put into English as 'Deification' or 'Divinization,' still is not simple to grasp. It opens out historically from the Biblical idea that the destiny of humanity is to share the life of God, to be "partakers of Divine nature" in St. Peter's expression; to be "changed into the same image [of God] from glory to glory" as St Paul said. St. Paul also, in saying that the whole universe awaits the full coming of age of humanity, suggests that Theosis goes beyond the individual and is inseparable from the ends of all things and all the worlds.

It is then such a large subject that it can be entered from almost any
point, but clearly one aspect of the question is that of the inner life of each of us in relation to God... Though we do not know ourselves, in the end one can aspire to please God, and "I believe that the desire to please you in fact pleases you." {Merton]

Now this raises the question of why our aspiration to please God should in fact please Him. It cannot be that the Deity is like some vain potentate wishing to hear flattery from his subjects. Rather it must be that praise, thanksgiving, acknowledgement, or Eucharist, if you will, are pleasing to God because they are what Life is made up of; praise is the inner stream of life of all the worlds, and God is pleased because in entering the stream of seeking to please and to praise we are entering what is His very own life, than which there is no other, the life of the One who, after each day of creation and each moment, says "it is good," Himself the maker within the stream of praise.

Bishop Seraphim Joseph Sigrist
Retired bishop of Sendai (Japan)
"L'Chaim, Theosis as Life"
Preface to the papers of the Alexander Men meetings
New York, July 20-24, 2007
From: BECOMING DIVINE - Essays on Theosis in Honor of Father Alexander Men
Editor, Bishop Seraphim Joseph Sigrist, Copyright 2007, pages 9-10



...[The] material man, who is also called the outer man, has food and drink related to his nature, specifically corporeal and earthly.

And in a similar way, the spiritual man, who is called the inner man, also has his own food, that living bread which came down from heaven (cf. Jn. 6:33, 41). And his drink is from the water which Jesus promised when He said, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst" (Jn. 4:14).

And so through everything a similarity of designations is applied according to each of the men [inner and outer]; but the special properties of each of them are distinguished from one another and kept separate.

Corruptible things are granted to the corruptible man, but incorruptible things are set forth for the incorruptible man.

Because of this it happens that certain of the simpler Christians, since they do not know how to distinguish and to keep separate what in the divine Scripture must be allotted to the inner man and what to the outer man, misled by the similarities in the designations, have turned themselves to certain foolish stories and vain fictions, so that even after the resurrection they believe that corporeal food must be used and drink taken not only from that true Vine which lives forever, but also from vines and fruits of wood (cf. Jn. 15:1).

Early 3rd Century
"Commentary of the Song of Songs"
P 222, Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works
The Classics of Western Spirituality Library Series, Paulist Press, New York 1979



The biggest enemies of freedom are not always external; they are more often internal to the person as well as to the community.

A person who has not by discipline trained himself or herself to be free from internal constraints like drives, passions, hidden motives, and lack of integrity, can never be considered genuinely free.

True freedom is not just a lack of external constraint or alien domination; it is the capacity to be creative of the good without being constrained to so or not to do so.

To be genuinely free is to desire and will the good, know the good and do the good, not for any other purpose than that it is the good. Such freedom is vested jointly in the person and in the community, simultaneously.

Neither the person nor the community can be really free, until it has be discipline ironed out also the internal constraints within the person and the society that prevent it from desiring the good, knowing the good and doing the good.

Freedom, in fact, is genuine, free, creative love that freely gives itself for others without seeking anything in return. Freedom is not doing what pleases oneself; it is creatively doing that which is good without internal or external constraint either within or without the person and the community.

Freedom needs power to create; that power can be scientific-technological, social-structural, political-economic, or prayerful-meditational; but it is always disciplined power, whether it be the power of persons, groups, corporations, or communities.

In fact, freedom is the transcendent. Only the transcendent is genuinely free, unconstricted, freely willing and achieving the good.

It is through the practice of genuinely creative freedom that the
transcendent is best experienced... This wider sense of freedom [...] needs to be reinstated today.

True freedom always include the ability to do that which is evil or not good, but also the disciplined capacity not to use that ability.

"A Light Too Bright: The Enlightenment Today" page 235
State University of New York Press, 1992



I know that the beauty I aim at in the garden lies hidden within the innate potentiality of the earth and the seeds that the sun and the rain bring to life...

Alas, the garden has taught me that beauty is both gift and accomplishment. As gift, I accept it humbly and without pride, gratefully and not greedily. As gift, beauty comes from above and beyond my poor power to bring it into existence or to experience it. St. Ephrem writes:

Paradise has...clothed itself
in terms that are akin to you;
[but] it is not because it is impoverished
that it has put on your imagery;
rather, your nature is far too weak
to be able
to attain to its greatness,
and its beauties are much diminished
by being depicted in the pale colors
with which you are familiar.
(Hymns on Paradise, 11:7)

Yet Paradise, Ephrem insists, is not so far distant from us that we cannot approach it. Indeed, we draw nearer to it with each and every effort to make our own selves and the world around us beautiful. Beauty in this fallen world is like the sun hidden behind a cloud. Our ruined "eyes" see just the shadow of its brightness. When, however, we are transformed by our love for it, beauty illumines our whole being, much as on Mount Tabor the bright glory of God enveloped Peter, James, and John.

In the Kingdom of heaven, light, life, and beauty are one. Light engenders life in the garden and beauty everywhere. From the Father of Light issues the Spirit, who gives Life and the Only-Begotten, who is Beauty itself. The Three are One God.

Light of Light, very God of very God...
From Whom all things came into being.
(Nicene Creed)

Vigen Guroian
The Fragrance of God, pp 85-87
2006 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan



As Christians, we have been handed the gift of time for one major purpose: to create new things in our lives for God. Yet too often, like everyone else in our secularized culture, we don't see time as an opportunity for creation. Rather, we see it as something to be measured mechanically or used up by a clock.

But from God's perspective, time is never self-limiting, never measured entirely by minutes, hours and days. Instead, time always has an eternal dimension. St. John underlines this fact when he says in the first verse of his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word..." Those are frightening words because they emphasize to us our limited natures in the face of God's limitless reality.

Who, after all, can locate "the beginning"? Yet as human beings, we're always trying to understand, define, and control our time. In our own little worlds, we try to be gods who know exactly when something is going to happen, when it will begin, and when it will end. But when we fall into this trap, we become the slaves rather than the masters of time.

Too often, we fail to put God in charge of our daily schedules and our various responsibilities, so that he can show us how best to use creatively the time he's given us. We may devote many minutes and sometimes hours to setting up our schedules and filling in our daily appointment diaries. For a time, we may even seem to get things organized in this way. But in fact, more often than not, we lose our creative edge in the process.

Our time,then, is not a mere succession of events. It's not a series of projects and responsibilities that we are supposed to compress and streamline according to some human preconceptions. Nor is time a vacuum to be filled by any sort of whimsical activity. Rather, time is God's gift to us. It is he - not others or ourselves - who has the authority to determine how the minutes and hours of our lives can be best used.

If we allow others to dictate the way our time will be used, or if we try to assume complete control over the schedule ourselves, we're sure to face frustration and failure. But if we allow God to help us "redeem the time," as St Paul puts it in his letter to the Colossians, we'll find ourselves becoming more creative. We'll also experience greater satisfaction as we move through our daily tasks; and we'll find the quality of our work improving.

In short, we must become more aware of God's eternal presence in every hour and minute of each day. That's the true test of time in our lives.

Archbishop Iakovos
Faith For A Lifetime: A Spiritual Journey, pp. 84, 87
Doubleday 1988



If we modern people thought of our world as a garden, if we gardened more, then I think all the other creatures and things that grow in the ground would be so much better off. Beauty CAN save the world! But that depends on how much we love beauty and seek it in our lives.

Gardening in not only making the world around us beautiful once more by letting beauty transform us. Gardening grows from our deep longing for salvation, so that beauty fills our lives. "Beauty," writes Berdyaev (The Destiny of Man), "is God's idea of the creature, of man and of the world... The transfiguration of the world is the attainment of beauty."

In my garden, I take hope from Jesus' promise to the repentant thief on the cross that he will be with his Lord in Paradise. I know that the sweat of my brow and tears of penance bring Paradise near in my backyard. For a garden is a profound sign and deep symbol of salvation, like none other, precisely because a garden was our first habitation, and God has deemed it to be our final home. Beauty is the aim of life. God imagined it so. God spoke the Word, and his invisible Image of Beauty became a visible garden. "The fertility of the earth is its perfect finishing," writes St Basil of Caesarea, "growth of al kinds of plants, the upspringing of tall trees, both productive and sterile, flowers' sweet scents and fair colors, and all that which...came forth from the earth to beautify her, their universal Mother" (from Hexaemeron, homily 2).

Beauty will transfigure the chaos and deformity of our wounded world into the peace and harmony of a cosmos that God, from the beginning, proclaimed to be good and beautiful.

Vigen Guroian
The Fragrance of God, pp 84-85
2006 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan



...the Holy Spirit of God has been at work in the whole creation from its very inception, and is still at work, not just in the Church, but in the whole universe, bringing it to fulfilment according to God’s plans; that I can trust the Triune God to fulfill the created order according to His plans, despite many apparent failures and regressions I am privileged to be initiated, by baptism-chrismation into the great mystery of the universe as God guides it to its destiny.

The vision that beckons defies human word and concept. The mind cannot envision what God has set in store for creation. The destiny is good without mitigation, pure joy in love, peace in community with all, ecstasy without triumph, sweeter than anything our mind and senses can now enjoy. The human mind can neither conceive of nor imagine what God has set in store for us and for all creation. Our fantasy and our imagination cannot soar so high. Even when we finally experience it, it will beyond all language and concept.

It is the Spirit that assures me of this. And the Spirit leads me there. That Spirit, we have a foretaste. The reality will surpass all present hope and human expectation.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit one true God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from the autobiography:
Love's Freedom, The Grand Mystery
by Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios
source: http://www.geocities.com/gregorianstudycircle/My_Vision.html


A Syriac Prayer

O Thou Divine Comforter and Advocate, Spirit of Truth, Treasure-house of Goodness, and Fountain of Life. Thou who dost apportion gifts and give talents from above; come and dwell in us, and cleanse us thoroughly, O Lord.

Create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us, even the spirit of temperance and purity, of righteousness and true holiness; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, even the spirit of strength and firm purpose; the spirit of knowledge and the awe of God.

Be with us and be our guide and leader, strengthening us and aiding us at all times. O Spirit of Holiness, full of mercy and goodness, grant our tears to flow and cleanse our hearts.

Do Thou take up Thy dwelling within us.

Touch our hearts with the fire of Thy love, O God, and refresh and revive us in all good works that we may live in Thee forever and ever.


from The Golden Key to Divine Worship
by Mar Severius Ephrem Barsoum
Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church, 1961



If you want to know what is meant by "God's will", this is one way to get a good idea of it. "God's will" is certainly found in anything that is required of us in order that we may be united with one another in love. ...Everything that is demanded of me, in order that I may treat every other person effectively as a human being, "is willed for me by God under the natural law." ...I must learn to share with others their joys, their sufferings, their ideas, their needs, their desires. I must learn to do this not only in the cases of those who are of the same class, the same profession, the same race, the same nation as myself, but when those who suffer belong to other groups, even to groups that are regarded as hostile. If I do this, I obey God. If I refuse to do it, I disobey Him. It is not therefore a matter left open to subjective caprice.

Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation
New York: New Directions Press, 1961; p 76-77
(with appreciation to Jim Forest, Orthodox Peace Fellowship)


A Story

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily.

But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

And we could never fly.

Author unknown (as retold by Fr. William)